Sunday, February 16, 2014

Welcome Back

I ran into an old friend last week and it was so nice to see him.

He was an older gentleman who used to hang around a candy story in my neighborhood and he came walking out of the wilderness of my memory after an absence of nearly 35 years.

I never knew his name, where he lived, or what he did for a living. And I don’t know whatever happened to him, though I’m pretty sure that after all this time he’s probably gone to his reward.

All I know is that I was his buddy and that when he was around I was the most important guy in town.

I can picture him very easily, even after all this time, a stocky man with a ruddy complexion, gray hair, and a smile you could see from two blocks away. And I can still hear his voice.

“Hey, buddy,” he’d say whenever I ran into him. “How’s it going?”

I was in my early 20s when I first met him, just out of school with a head full of dreams about all the great things I was going to accomplish with my life and absolutely no idea how I was going to do it.

I was shy, a bit socially awkward, and more than a little too eager to be liked. There are plenty of people willing to take advantage of someone like that, but this man was different.

Whenever I walked into that tiny, hopelessly cluttered candy store, he’d make a big fuss, greeting me as if I had been just returned from overseas. He’d step aside, made sure I got waited on, and send me on my way with a heartfelt “take care.”

I ran into him one morning at the foot of the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge as I was watching Sidney Lumet’s crew shoot a scene from Prince of the City.

There I was, a nobody, a wannabe movie director, watching the pros work their magic from the wrong side of the barricades.

Star Power

And then my friend came walking up the bike path.

“Hey, buddy, what’s going on?” he asked.

“They’re shooting a movie.”

“Oh, yeah?” he said, all excited. “Gee, isn’t amazing what they can do in the movies?”

“It sure is.”

And then he was on his way, but in those few moments the barricades disappeared briefly and I became a somebody.

It felt a little strange having someone in my father’s age bracket treating me like an equal. To this day there’s a dark part of me that wonders why he was so nice—instead of just accepting his friendship as the rare, beautiful gift that it was.

I know that there were no ulterior motives—he wasn’t trying to sell me anything or lure me into his basement so he could jump my tender bones.

Maybe he was a lonely man who never had children. Maybe I reminded him of a son he had lost. Or maybe he was just a decent, friendly man. There are a few of them around.

My buddy faded from my life slowly. The candy store closed, I didn’t see him around the neighborhood, and eventually I stopped thinking about him. Until last week.

I have to wonder why he made this return visit. I suppose this could’ve been just an aimless memory circling through my subconscious like Halley's Comet.

But it’s been a tough winter, with the lousy weather and a nagging virus making me angry, depressed and anxious. So perhaps I needed to see the kind of friend that you can’t find on Facebook.

He’s also reminding me about the importance of being kind to people who really need it. Whatever the reason, it’s good to have him back.

Hey, buddy, how’s it going?


Ron said...

Rob, just from the way you wrote this and described this gentleman, I got such a clear vision and feeling for what he was like.

"Or maybe he was just a decent, friendly man."

Yup, and that's exactly what I felt. You know, sometimes I think certain people come into our lives at the right time, giving us what we need to help. Even if it's just a kind word to lift our spirits and give support when we need it most.

To me this guy sounded like he was just a genuinely kind and sweet man.

Beautifully written post, Rob! I love the way you share an experience because you have such a one-of-a-kind way of sharing it. Gifted writer you are!

Have a super week, buddy! And I hope that virus is gone soon. Take care.

Rob K said...

Hey,, Brother Ron, what do you say?

I like the idea of certain people coming into our lives when we need them. And I'm learning that it doesn't take much to lift people's spirits--even a kind word will do the trick.

Thanks as always for your kindness and support. I really appreciate it!

Have a great week, buddy!

Bijoux said...

What an interesting post! Isn't memory a funny thing? I was listening to the radio a few days ago and a certain high school in my hometown was mentioned. I immediately thought of a friend I had from that school who was in my church youth group. She was Asian and had been adopted, which was really unusual back in the 1960's.

The weird thing was that I hadn't thought of her in over 30 years and now I wonder whatever became of her. It's good to look back and appreciate the connections we've had. It sounds like your friend knew just what to say to you, even though you were strangers.

Rob K said...

Hey, Bijoux!

Yeah, my buddy knew just what to say.

That's interesting about your friend in the church group coming back to you after all this time.

Maybe you could poke around on the Internet and see what's she up to.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Its refreshing to think that there really are just some decent people out there. No ulterior motives or sick games just people who want to make your day a little brighter. Really glad to see you were able to meet one such person!

Rob K said...

Thanks, Shae!

I was glad I was able to call him to mind. I'm much better at recalling the bad stuff!

Take care!